Growing Up in Working Class Youngstown — Spinning Bowl Salads


2oth Century Restaurant, photo courtesy of Morris Levy, used with permission.

One of my favorite college memories was a small group of friends that would gather for dinner at the end of each quarter at Youngstown State. We would meet up at the 20th Century Restaurant, with its art deco architecture, and usually several of us would end up sharing one of their legendary Spinning Bowl Salads. The 20th Century was located on Belmont Ave, at the “Belmont Point” where Belmont and Wirt Street merged.

The Spinning Bowl Salad was a trademark of the 20th Century Restaurant from its beginnings in 1941. The restaurant was opened by Harry and Faye Malkoff, who ran several other restaurants in the area including one of our favorites, the Golden Drumstick, located on the South side. Faye Malkoff was apparently a culinary genius. In Classic Restaurants of Youngstown, her son says that she based the recipe on one used at Lawry’s Steakhouse in Los Angeles, adding her own unique touches (p. 112). I’m inclined to believe this version of the history, although there is an alternate claiming it was picked up from the Blackhawk Steak House in Chicago. A Baltimore Sun article from May 10, 2000 makes this connection and provides a recipe that sounds like the salad I remember.

The big deal with the Spinning Bowl Salad was that it was made at your table, the bowl literally being spun as the salad was tossed and the special blue cheese-based and crumbled egg dressing was added. It was a show as well as a feast–we’d often share one, along with other entrees.

The restaurant had a diverse menu and it was all good–everything from steaks and spare ribs to deli sandwiches and pasta. Living on a college student budget a plate of spaghetti, a share of a Spinning Bowl and one of their famous chocolate creme pies or New York Cheesecakes would leave you pretty satisfied.

By the time I started going there to eat in the early ’70s, ownership had passed to Joseph and Morris Levy, along with brothers Marvin and Jacob Newman (Classic Restaurants, p. 112). I regret that I never visited during the heyday of the Malkoff’s ownership, but it sounds like the Levy’s kept the wait staff who had worked for the Malkoff’s along with a chef trained by Faye. I spoke to Morris Levy who gave me permission to use the picture in this article. I joked with him that as a sometimes boisterous college students he probably had to shush us. He said most likely he would have joined in with the fun. At any rate, we always found the 20th Century a great place for good food and celebration.

During this time, much of the business growth on the North side had moved north of Gypsy Lane into Liberty Township. The area of Belmont on which the restaurant was located began to decline and customers felt increasingly unsafe visiting the restaurant. Ultimately, it was closed in the late 1980’s and is no more.

Still, as restaurants go, a forty-five year plus run is pretty amazing when so many start ups last only a few years. It was a great place for first dates, anniversaries, celebrations, or a place for a good lunch if you worked downtown or on the North side. It combined a unique atmosphere with great, distinctive menu items. And for most of us, what we will remember most is those awesome Spinning Bowl Salads.

I hope you will add your memories of the 20th Century to this post.

[Want to read more of “Growing Up in Working Class Youngstown?” Click “On Youngstown” here or on the menu to see over a hundred other posts!]



Review: In Search of Moral Knowledge


In Search of Moral KnowledgeR. Scott Smith. Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2014.

Summary: Surveying the history of ethical thought, it argues for the possibility of universal moral knowledge contrary to contemporary theories consigning moral propositions to the realm of subjective, relative values.

Instinctively, we know that some things are just right, and some wrong. Cold-blooded murder, rape, child abuse, and genocide are just wrong. Sacrificial love of a parent for a child, or a spouse, impartial standards of justice, and marital faithfulness are just right. Yet moral theory since Kant considers moral statements to simply be assertions of value or sentiment, as opposed to statements of fact. Moral knowledge is not possible in the same sense as scientific knowledge.

R. Scott Smith believes in the possibility of religiously based moral knowledge that may afford universal moral knowledge. But before making his case he surveys the history of ethical thought on these questions. First of all, he considers classical and early Christian ethical theories, including that of great thinkers from Augustine through Aquinas that rooted ethics in the transcendent. Following the Enlightenment and the focus on human reason, Smith traces the rise of naturalism, and the fact-value dichotomy, modern moral theories of John Rawls’ political liberalism and Christine Korsgaard’s constructivism. He turns to post modern theorists and the efforts of Christian ethicists, Alasdair McIntyre and Stanley Hauerwas.

In the final part of this work, Smith outlines his own argument for religiously based moral knowledge, rooted in the case for the existence of the Christian God, basing this in the cumulative case for God’s existence and thus the basis for universal moral knowledge in the transcendent. The veracity of historical evidences for Christian revelation justify this as a source for moral knowledge.

I think this work offers a great survey of ethical thought that makes it a valuable text for a course in ethics in a Christian college or seminary context, or a valuable “alongside” reading for the student in a similar course in a secular context. It is thorough, extensive and carefully argued. It also reveals the conundrum of modern ethical thought in making assertions about morality absent any basis for arguing for moral facts.

Given the thoroughness of the survey, the author’s statement of his own theory of universal moral knowledge seemed quite brief. He does deal with some objections, but I would have liked to seen a fuller defense of the premises of his argument, particularly because the title adverts to “overcoming the fact-value dichotomy.” Adding the word “toward” would probably be more accurate. This, however, is valuable in itself as a critical survey of moral thought that may be adequate for the needs of many and lay the groundwork for further reading of more extensive treatments in other works.

Bob on Books Offline For a While

I’ve been posting consistently six times a week for the past few years. I’m going to have to take some time offline to deal with a health issue. Hope to be back in a week or so! But there are lots of reviews, and other posts on reading, life, Youngstown, and more that you can check out–over 1000 in all! Thanks for following so faithfully!

Review: Handel: The Man & His Music


Handel: The Man & His MusicJonathan Keates. New York: Random House, 2009.

Summary: A biography of George Frideric Handel, tracing his life through his music, from his training in Halle, his time in Italy, and his long career in England, following George I’s ascent to the English throne, through the formation of three opera companies, and the composition of the oratorios for which he is most famous.

For most of us, when you mention Handel, we think primarily of his most famous works: The Royal Fireworks Music,The Water Music,  Judas Maccabeus, The Concerti Grossi, and most of all Messiah. For a long time these were about the only works of Handel in my music collection. In recent years, I’ve discovered that Handel composed numerous other operas and oratorios on biblical and classical themes. But until I read this book, I had no idea of how much music Handel composed, particularly in the genre of opera.


The Queens Theatre in the Haymarket in London where many of Handel’s operas were first performed, by William Capon

Keates biography really is just as much musicography as it is biography. Part of the reason is that Handel, apart from his music, lived a very private life, never marrying. We do learn about his family including his physician father. We learn about his training in Halle, his time in Italy learning from Corelli and Scarlatti, and most fatefully, how he became kapellmeister to the Elector of Hanover in 1710, and moved to London in 1712 when the Elector ascended to the English throne as George I. Handel never depended exclusively on the Royal Family for patronage, enjoying the patronage of other wealthy houses. He also helped launch, over the years, three opera companies. When, in the 1730’s interest in his operas waned, he began writing oratorios, leading to Samson, Alexander Balus, and above all, Messiah and Judas Maccabeus. We learn of Handel’s temporary paralysis (perhaps from stroke?) and the eventual loss of his sight, the use of the proceeds of Messiah performances for the Foundling Hospital, and his passing in 1757.

What we learn most from Keates is about the music itself–the libretti and the librettists Handel worked with, the scenes and movements, music drawn from earlier work and the performers who first performed these works. We are introduced to ‘il Senesino,’ Handel’s star castrato (a role likely not to be filled in this way in our more humane age) and Susannah Cibber, who sang “He was despised” in Messiah. She did not have a great voice but was unmatched in her expressiveness, as an actor. We also trace the career of Handel, the music impresario, and the struggles hardly unique to his age to make musical performances and companies financially viable, as well as profitable to himself. He was perhaps more successful than most, due particularly to his oratorios, leaving an estate of 20,000 pounds, distributing bequests to a number of causes and friends.

Some might consider his account of the works and their first performances too much. But for the musicophile who wants to discover Handel’s lesser known works, many of which have been recorded in the last thirty years, the book makes a great adjunct to the discovery of these works. One of the indexes Keates includes is one by category and alphabet to all the works referenced in his book, with page numbers. I would also have appreciated a chronological listing, and perhaps a discography of recordings of these works.

After a period when Handel’s reputation was in eclipse, he once again has grown in regard. Keates work instructs us on many of the lesser known aspects of his life and work, and the prolific body of work that remains for many of us to discover.

An Amazing Bookstore


One of the many alcoves at Blue Jacket Books, an amazing store in Xenia, Ohio

Have you had the experience of discovering an amazing bookstore, one that seemed to have any book about anything? There seemed to be miles of shelves, cubby holes where you could curl up with a book, and great bargains on remaindered books–ones you wanted to read when they were full price, except you hadn’t gotten around to it.

In a Literary Hub article I discovered that we have James Lackington to thank for all of this. Lackington opened a store in 1774 in London that revolutionized bookselling to this day. His store, The Temple of Muses, eventually stocked 500,000 volumes. He bought large quantities of remaindered titles and, instead of destroying most of them to drive up the price, he passed the savings on to customers. He had four floors of books with “lounging rooms” for customers. It sounds like it was an incredible place.

I remember my first visit to a Borders store while we were house hunting in Columbus. This was when they were still owned by the Borders brothers. I couldn’t believe the depth of selection in each topic area, there was an amazing sale table, and lots of places to sit and browse your finds, as well as a cafe so that you could do it all drink in hand. All the things Lackington figured out made a great bookstore were present.

Now Borders is gone. There is only one major brick and mortar bookseller to speak of. More and more, the selection is limited to either the most significant or most current books in a genre. The only “everything” store is online. But there are still some great stores around the country such as Powell’s or BookPeople who still approximate this ideal. And the second hand stores, particularly some of the Half Price Books stores provide the opportunity for finding great bargains and unusual books. There are some independents as well, some in out of the way places like Blue Jacket Books in Xenia, Ohio that approximate this ideal.

I find myself wondering if a generation from now, people will still have the jaw-dropping experience of walking into a huge bookstore that seems to stock everything, where there are miles of aisles and shelves to explore on every conceivable topic. I also wonder if we will foster a culture that values such places. But there is the wonderful experience of finding your favorite section, and leisurely reading down the shelves of books and making those serendipitous finds that a logarithm or a heuristic might not predict because it only goes off your past history, and not your future interests, the ones that may be awakened by a title, a book cover, or a table of contents. It is a cultural good I hope we do not lose.

I do feel fortunate because in our city, Columbus, while we don’t have any “temples” to books, we have some pretty interesting stores. Some, like the Book Loft in German Village, with its 32 rooms over a couple floors, or the Half Price store on Lane Ave that sprawls and winds through a couple connected buildings get kind of close to Lackington’s ideal. A while back I wrote a post about bookstore crawling in Columbus. If you ever come through, I hope you will come visit some of my favorite places and help keep them alive!

I’d love to hear about your amazing bookstore experiences, so I can visit if I ever come through your town!

The End of Books & Culture Magazine?


It appears from an announcement in Editor John Wilson’s weekly newsletter that Books & Culturea publication of Christianity Today, is coming to an end with the forthcoming November-December issue. A tweet on @booksandculture indicates that they will continue to publish in some form online until the end of 2017.

The warning signs that this was coming. The publication was nearly shuttered in 2013, but saved by pledges that at that time were supposed to keep it afloat until 2018, according to a Christian Century article at the time. The article indicates that Books & Culture has struggled financially throughout its history and been subsidized to the tune of between $1 and $2 million by the parent company, Christianity TodayChristianity Today itself has struggled with financial losses in recent years and shut down several other publications. It’s surprising that Books & Culture lasted this long.

Alan Jacobs, in his blog this morning, wrote this tribute to the magazine and its long-time editor John Wilson:

“For twenty-one years, Books and Culture has been one of the most consistently interesting magazines in the English-speaking world. I have often been surprised at the number and range of people who agree with me about that. Alex Star, a former editor of the New York Times Magazine and now an editor at Farrar, Straus & Giroux, once told me that he read every issue in full. Cullen Murphy, former editor of the Atlantic, told me that John Wilson is the best editor in the business.”

This was my own experience. I have been a subscriber through most of its 21 year history. Books & Culture featured a great stable of writers and reviewers discussing important books on just about every subject, many not by Christian writers, but addressing important questions about the human condition and human flourishing. I found it a wonderful complement to mainstream sources like the New York Times Book Review and others, and the writing of equal quality.

This may be why the review lasted as long as it did. Christianity Today in its beginnings reflected a vision of an evangelicalism with intellectual as well as theological heft, and Books & Culture certainly has continued that tradition. A blog post by long-time Christianity Today board member Fred Smith back in 2013 underscores this idea. He writes:

“I studied the writings of the first editors – especially Carl F. H. Henry.  I pored over the original statement of mission. “Christianity Today has its origin in a deep-felt desire to express historical Christianity to the present generation. Neglected slighted misrepresented—evangelical Christianity needs a clear voice to speak with conviction and love ” and to state its true position and its relevance to the world crisis. A generation has grown up unaware of the basic truths of the Christian faith taught in the Scriptures and expressed in the creeds of the historic evangelical churches.”  It slowly dawned on me that Books & Culture may well be the inheritor of that early vision and not simply a way of proving to an educated and sophisticated world that evangelicals were peers and intellectually formidable.

I suspect the decision came down to the reality that Books & Culture could not hemorrhage finances forever and no one with deep enough pockets and long enough commitment has come along to sustain its publication. But in this, I see several concerning realities:

  • For one, this reflects that the vision of Christianity Today’s founders has not caught fire today. Books & Culture from what I can tell averaged between 9,000 and 11,000 subscribers at best in a country of 320 million. It is likely that subscription revenues defrayed less than half its costs.
  • This suggests to me that a significant part of the Christian public has little concern with finding out about the best that is being thought and written today, and considering how our faith engages those ideas.
  • I also wonder how much this reflects the impact of the internet, where we can find all kinds of information for free. What this doesn’t take into account is how important good, curated sources of information including reviews are to informed reading. Within the Christian community Books and Culture was undoubtedly one of the best sources. It’s worth paying for such things. C. Christopher Smith’s Englewood Review of Books and Byron Borger’s Booknotes are valuable resources, as are the reviews in First ThingsBut none has the breadth of what Books & Culture offered or brings together so many talented writers.

Books & Culture offered reviews of thoughtful writing for those hungering for something more than the banal offerings that make most of the Christian best-seller lists. It offered resources for aspiring scholars in every field wanting to think more deeply and Christianly about their work. The death of this publication will leave us all impoverished. Thank you John Wilson, and all who wrote for B & C for enriching our lives for the past two decades. You will be sorely missed!

Endorsers Repent!


Wayne Grudem, By Wayne Grudem, CC BY-SA 3.0,

On August 5, I wrote a post called “The Endorsement Game.” I opened the post with this paragraph:

“My Facebook feed has been filled with both defenses of and outrage toward the various evangelical leaders, including Wayne Grudem, who have endorsed the Republican candidate for the U.S. Presidency. Maybe the reason for this is that I have friends across the spectrum (yes there is one!) of evangelical belief who have lots of different takes on these endorsements, and on the fitness for office of the one being endorsed.”

I return to this post because over the weekend Dr. Grudem withdrew his endorsement of the Republican candidate for president and called upon him to resign. I was heartened to see this and a willingness to acknowledge his own error, according to a Washington Post article, of not taking time to investigate earlier allegations about the candidate’s character before making his endorsement.

I credit Dr. Grudem’s integrity of publicly acknowledging an error instead of doubling down as others have done, even justifying the candidate’s language as “locker room banter,” which seems to me appalling, particularly among supposed evangelicals.

What distresses me however is that Dr. Grudem never even begins (to my knowledge) to question the basic practice of endorsing candidates as an “evangelical leader” and the entanglement of the gospel with partisan politics. He only is saying that he made a bad decision this time. I would argue that this is always a bad decision for evangelical leaders for one fundamental reason (evangelicals like fundamentals!):

Endorsing one party’s candidate carries with it the implication that you can only be a Christian if you vote a certain way.

I know most leaders wouldn’t say that (although it wouldn’t surprise me that some would). But I have friends who have been repulsed from Christian faith for precisely this reason. The warning of Matthew 18:6 is one I think every evangelical endorser ought to consider seriously:

“But if you cause one of these little ones who trusts in me to fall into sin, it would be better for you to have a large millstone tied around your neck and be drowned in the depths of the sea.” (NIV)

Furthermore, I would argue that the leaders who endorse, whether conservative or progressive, have led the flocks who follow them into political captivity, fostering deep estrangements within the Christian community in our land across racial and economic lines. The prophets of the Old Testament denounce the shepherds of Israel for scattering the sheep. I will be blunt–leaders who engage in this kind of political activity as leaders of the evangelical community are misleading their flocks and are under the judgement of God (cf Jeremiah 23:1-8; Ezekiel 34; Zechariah 10:2-12).

Unless evangelical leadership repents of this kind of behavior (repent means to turn, in thought and action, because of the awareness that one has transgressed), that leadership will find that they aren’t leading anything. Their cry will be “Ichabod!” which means “the glory has departed.” Repentance isn’t simply withdrawing embarrassing endorsements, it is to cease from this endorsement game, which idolizes political power, to the denial of the greater power of the kingdom, whose heralds they are called to be.

Those who read me regularly probably find this writing uncharacteristic of me. You are right. But I am deeply angry and grieved, not with the presidential candidates, but with the harm I’ve watched these “evangelical leaders” commit over a generation to the gospel I love and how they’ve besmirched the glory of the Christ I love and how their activity is turning away a generation of spiritual seekers. Given how far we’ve sunken in this current election, I’ve wondered if we’ve come to our last chance to turn from this political and spiritual folly. Lord, have mercy!

Review: How to Survive the Apocalypse


How to Survive the ApocalypseRobert Joustra & Alissa Wilkinson. Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans, 2016.

Summary: Explores the fascination of the apocalyptic in contemporary film, television, and gaming through the lens of Charles Taylor’s work on secularism and the self.

“The world is going to hell.

Just turn on the television–no, not the news. Flip over to the prestige dramas and sci-fi epics and political dramas. Look at how we entertain ourselves. Undead hordes are stalking and devouring, alien invasions are crippling and enslaving, politicians ignore governance in favor of sex and power, and sentient robots wreak terrible revenge upon us” (p. 1).

With these words, the authors explore the contemporary fascination with apocalyptic that runs through dystopian fiction, film, television, and gaming. Like Andy Crouch, who wrote the Foreward to this book, I have spent far less time than these writers (almost none at all, truthfully) with the media they explore in this work, although I am aware of the contemporary fascination with this. I picked it up because I was interested in why the fascination.

For the authors, the work of Charles Taylor, and particularly The Secular Age shape their analysis of contemporary apocalyptic. They note that there has always been apocalyptic literature, but that the character of that literature exposes the character of the age and the concerns that age arouses in us. For them, Taylor’s understanding of how secularity has shaped the self makes sense of the themes of the apocalyptic in our own age. We see it in our quest as “buffered selves” for authenticity; how we are shaped, in the midst of of an impersonal order, through relations with others; and how any kind of hope for survival of the apocalypse involves addressing the “malaises of modernity”:  radical individualism, instrumentalism, in which our lives are incorporated into the efficient functioning of society, and the infinity of personal choices that leads to a paralysis that can end up in the surrender of freedom to tyranny.

These themes are surveyed through a tour of apocalyptic film and television. Beginning with Battlestar Galactica, the authors explore the efforts of characters (and Cylons) to self-define and self-actualize. We discover in works as disparate as The Hunger Games and Her (a series involving romantic relationship with an operating system) how authenticity and self-definition can occur only in relational and social contexts.

We consider the dark side of the quest for authenticity when the “horizon of choice” turns to power in series like House of Cards, Breaking Bad, and Mad Men. In each, we see that the anti-hero’s quest for significance through power is a delusion that ends up rendering the anti-hero powerless. We see these themes writ large in the political order of Westeros in Game of Thrones.  Joustra and Wilkinson conclude, “It is the pathological forms of authenticity, anthropocentrism, and instrumentalism that will feel winter’s coldest chill. That an apocalypse is coming is proof that hidden meaning remains to be unveiled…” (p. 135).

To survive “the apocalypse” we must confront the realities behind The Night of the Living Dead” and World War Z,  that exposes the reality that there is no such think as “naked self-interest.” Given the pluralism of our society, there are a multitude of a “self-interests” for people and institutions, some pathological, and some because they are rooted in an understanding of who we are, what people are for, and where we are going, are better.

Apocalypses are about “the end.” But they also point us to “ends” beyond the end, to ways of living that anticipate what is beyond apocalypse, whether in the end we avoid it or not. The danger is nostalgia, an attempt to turn back the clock. Yet the secular age, with its radical pluralism is upon us. Better than retreats into nostalgia or personal “sheltering in place” is a posture of seeking to be architects who seek contribute to social institutions for better, seeking to shape rather than merely being shaped. The writers propose that this is always a “proximate” effort. Seeking the prosperity of Babylon will not bring in the New Jerusalem. It is always at best pursuing common cause with constructive disagreement.

It was this last that I especially appreciated. Instead of naive idealism, stark, power-hungry realism, or a disaffected retreat, the authors point us, and particularly Christians who care about society, toward a posture of being salt in society, preserving and perhaps enhancing, and in the process, enabling us to survive with our souls should apocalypse come. The authors, unpacking Taylor’s massive work and connecting it to popular media, serve us well in helping us understand our present times, the end that apocalypse represents, and the ends we might pursue as we allow the possible future to shape our present.

Growing Up in Working Class Youngstown — Stuffed Peppers


By Biskuit (originally posted to Flickr as Stuffed Pepper) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (, via Wikimedia Commons

About this time of the year or even sooner, gardeners in Youngstown would be overwhelmed with peppers of all varieties — banana, Hungarian, chili and bell peppers. The question, especially with the last was what to do with them. Sure you could cut them up in strips, dip them in a good dip mix, and munch on them. But the favorite solution at many Youngstown tables was to stuff them.

I have to say that as a kid, I liked the stuffing more than the peppers when they had been cooked. I think I actually liked peppers better in the raw. If I could get away with it, I’d eat out the stuffing and leave those limp cooked peppers on the side of the plate. But if mom was there, she’d insist I eat the peppers. The trick was to get enough stuffing to minimize the taste of the pepper in each bite but to stretch the stuffing to last the whole pepper.

The basic recipe was big blocky bell peppers with the tops removed and the seeds and inner membranes removed. Then you created a stuffing of cooked rice, browned ground beef, tomato sauce, Worcestershire sauce, and seasonings (every cook has their own preference). Then the stuffed peppers are baked in an oven for roughly an hour. A good example of a recipe that looks like the stuffed peppers I grew up with can be found at

But the great thing about stuffed peppers are that there are all kinds of ingredients you can substitute. My wife makes a meatless recipe with chili beans, corn and salsa as the principle ingredients. Both to add taste and eye appeal, some melted cheese on the top with a parsley garnish is a nice touch. Various meats or no meat at all can be used. I’ve seen recipes with yogurt, shrimp, eggs and cheese, chili stuffing, quinoa, orzo and more. Basically, if you can put it in a pita, an omelette, a burrito, or a fajita, you can put it in a pepper! I found this site on Pinterest supposedly with 1000+ ideas.

Then there are different kinds of peppers you can use. Beyond the tried and true bell peppers there are Hungarian peppers, chili peppers, poblano peppers, jalapeno peppers and more. It seems that people stuff peppers all over the world!

It makes sense that stuffed peppers would be a Youngstown staple. They consist of basic, inexpensive ingredients that when put together make a tasty, sustaining meal. And they use up all that garden produce!

How did your family make stuffed peppers? Did you like them as a kid? Do you like them now?

[Want to read other posts in the “Growing Up in Working Class Youngstown” series? Just click on “On Youngstown” here or on the menu!]

Toward a Better Science and Faith Conversation


A great setting in which to talk about a better conversation between science and faith! Photo by Robert C. Trube. All rights reserved.

I had the privilege last week of participating in a retreat of ministry leaders and scientists whose vision is to promote a better conversation between science and faith. The retreat was part of a grant through the John Templeton Foundation administered through Fuller Theological Seminary. The program is called STEAM, which stands for Science and Theology for Emerging Adult Ministries. The name identifies one of the concerns motivating the project: many emerging adults are walking away from the church because of the perception that science and faith are at war and that the church is anti-science.

This is sad because it was not always so. Many early and present day scientists from Copernicus to Francis Collins combine deep faith and scientific rigor in their lives with no sense of conflict.

I could go into the history of why there has even been a conflict, but others have done this better, and often this degenerates to a “he said/she said” conflict dialogue.

What I’d suggest are a few ground rules for a better conversation, not unlike those often used to facilitate other conversations.

1. Perhaps above all, good conversations arise when we listen in order to learn and understand rather than mentally composing arguments and rebuttals while another speaks.

2. For Christians, I think we need to read our Bibles well, gleaning what the writers meant to say under divine inspiration for their first audience, in their own cultural context. This is often regrettably neglected, which reflects a low rather than high view of the Bible. Too often, we impose our own questions and the concerns of our own context on the Bible and try to make it answer questions its writers never intended to answer.

3. We should set aside all attempts to force a reconciliation of science and the Bible that result in either the rejection of scientific findings or concluding that certain portions of scripture in error. This may lead to unanswered questions, but I would prefer that to forced answers.

4. Efforts to prove or disprove God by science should be set aside. This is not a question science can decide one way or the other. I have believing friends who consider the order and beauty of the universe and believe in a God. I have atheist friends who see other aspects of the world like suffering and do not believe in a God. The best I’ve been able to figure in all this is what Pascal wrote: “the heart has its reasons that reason knows not of.” This is also problematic because science continues to advance and what may be a “proof” today is disproven or capable of an alternative explanation tomorrow. The most I will ever say as a believer is that I have not found what I’ve learned in science inconsistent with the idea of a God (and hence why I believe faith and science need not to be at war!).

5. We should recognize that potential participants on both sides of the discussions may come with certain fears. Fear aroused often leads to defensiveness and may be at the root of much of the “warfare.” A better conversation doesn’t attack people at the place of their fear. It creates a space where fear can be acknowledged without ridicule or attack and seeks to allay fear through building trust and mutual vulnerability.

6. We likewise should not foreclose the search for understanding of others. Scientists should not ridicule the search for knowledge in religious texts. Nor should Christians foreclose any line of research, other than the sinister experiments that passed for “research” against Jews in prison camps, which would violate the research protocols of any research university. It may be warranted at times to talk about how we apply the findings of research, because this may be done with great good or great harm.

7. We should be skeptical of all of those, believers and skeptics alike, who have made a career, and in some cases a pile of money, promoting the warfare between faith and science. They may be utterly sincere, but I wonder, when either theologians or scientists make this warfare a major preoccupation. At very least, it may not be healthy. Might it be better for them to return to their parish or lab bench?

8. Might we instead devote ourselves to the important questions that people of faith and people working in the sciences care about deeply? For example, might Christians who care deeply about the majority world lobby for funding of research on diseases that impact majority world peoples, or livestock, disproportionately, rather than  adding more funds to fight diseases in Western contexts that already enjoy significant support?  Might Christians committed to peacemaking press that a greater portion of research funding go toward projects that enable people to flourish rather than devising ever more efficient means of killing? Or what does love of neighbor have to do with our response to those displaced from livelihoods by technological advances? This is just the tip of the iceberg, but it seems that there are a myriad of conversations where practicing Christians and practicing scientists have converging interests, whether they share the same faith or not.

If we pursue the kinds of conversations I’ve talked about in the last point, it seems that we might move toward better conversations. We still might not always agree. But might we begin to learn from and collaborate where possible on this amazing and challenging project of seeking the flourishing of the world and people we love? Is that not perhaps in the spirit of what Jeremiah said to the exiles in Babylon when he encouraged them to seek the peace and prosperity of the city where they lived (Jeremiah 29:7)? And we just might see the return to the church of some emerging adults who have longed for a better conversation around science and faith.